Best chef knife 2021: Our favourite affordable, beginner and professional chef’s knives

Chef’s knives – the style of blade, not knives specifically for chefs – are widely considered the most versatile of all kitchen blades. The size and shape of these knives make them the go-to tool for most prepping tasks, whether it’s slicing, cutting or chopping. The best chef knife comes with a gently curved blade, which is perfectly suited to the rocking motion cut that any self-respecting cook will employ during the prep stages of a banquet.

After a great deal of research, we finally decided on the following classy cutters, called them in to the Expert Reviews office and put them through a few extensive real-world prepping tests. To be honest, they’ve all been brilliant at performing the tasks they were designed for, but which one is best for you?

READ NEXT: The best kitchen knives

At a glance: Best chef knife

How to choose the best chef’s knife for you

Which type of chef’s knife is best?

Choosing one knife over another is mostly a personal preference. Do you want a typical chef’s knife with an 8in curved blade and pointy tip or a shorter Japanese-style Santoku knife with a flatter blade and squarer tip? How comfortable is the handle? How much does it weigh? How well is it balanced? Is it easy to use? How much does it cost? Questions, questions.

Frankly, any of the blades below will transform your cooking and reinvigorate your enthusiasm for preparing your next meal but we’ve settled on a range that has something for everyone.

What size blade should I choose?

The average optimum length of a chef’s knife is 8in (around 20cm), although 6in blades are popular, especially among novice cooks. Finding the right size blade for you is important though, as it will improve prep times and the accuracy of your cut. We’d always suggest starting out with a smaller blade but if you have particularly big hands, you might prefer a larger option from the get-go.

How do you keep your knife in tip-top condition?

All knife blades will gradually blunt with use and even the act of slicing soft vegetables on a chopping board will slowly degrade the edge of the blade. Therefore it’s advisable to always ensure your knife’s edge is razor sharp. Not only does this make the task of cutting, slicing and chopping a breeze, but you’re also far less likely to cut yourself with a sharp blade than with a blunt one.

There are many types of blade sharpeners on the market, from sharpening steels (long thin shafts of buffed steel) to electric sharpeners and stone blocks. However, a sharpening steel needs to be used at an accurate angle or the blade’s geometry may alter. Traditional stones with some water are among the best knife sharpeners but they’re also arguably among the hardest ways to achieve the correct angle, especially if you’re a novice. 

Any other care tips?

Even if the manufacturer says it’s okay to sling your chef’s knife in the dishwasher, we’d advise hand cleaning it instead – especially if it has a wooden handle. It only takes a rinse under the hot tap and a quick wipe down to make it gleam again.

You should also purchase something to store your knives in. Standard wooden knife blocks are fine, but they won’t accommodate certain knives. Magnetic wall-mounted knife holders are more versatile, but some of them aren’t strong enough to hold an 8in knife.

The best option is one of a new breed of fibre-based knife blocks that will safely store a wide variety of knife sizes. These blocks are filled with removable plastic bristles that part as you drop the knife in, keeping the blade perfectly protected. John Lewis sells a pair of highly recommended models.

READ NEXT: Our pick of the best knife sharperners

The best chef’s knives to buy

1. Victorinox Fibrox Santoku Knife: Best affordable 6in Santoku knife for novices

Price: £38 | Buy now from Amazon

This 17cm model is a perfect choice for the novice seeking a Japanese style general purpose knife. It’s an outstanding all-rounder that’s as adept at chopping herbs as it is at slicing tomatoes and cucumbers.

The Fibrox Santoku’s blade has little pits that are said to help dispel sticky ingredients like cucumber and apple. It does work but not to the degree you’d expect. Sharpness wise, the dishwasher-safe stainless steel blade failed to slice the dropped grape but, being the thinnest blade here, it excelled in the cucumber slicing test. For such a short blade, it also tacked the swede better than expected (we suspect the cheap but grippy plastic handle helped a lot in this respect).

This isn’t a knife to show off to your friends but it cuts, slices and dices with unflappable poise.

Key specsBlade material: Carbon stainless steel Handle material: TPE; Size: 17cm

Buy now from Amazon

2. Robert Welch Signature 12cm Cooks Knife: Best extra small chef’s knife

Price: £42 | Buy now from Robert Welch

We’re breaking with chef’s knife tradition here and recommending a much smaller blade than the 8-inch norm. This model has an equally sharp blade of similar curvature to the company’s classic chef’s knife reviewed below, only it’s much easier to handle, especially when it comes to slicing small vegetables like tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, spring onion and garlic.

At just 12cm in length (4.72 inches), the Signature’s blade is cast from German DIN 1.4116 stainless steel while its 15° Japanese-style edge is hand applied for supreme, long-lasting sharpness. As is the case with all Robert Welch Signature editions, the ebony-like DuPont handle is perfectly shaped for comfort and its smooth texture feels tactile in the hand. 

Granted, this knife won’t tackle large vegetables like swede and pumpkin but it will handle pretty much everything else, including chicken breast, steak and fish. So, if you’re looking for a smaller-bladed chef’s knife that doesn’t feel intimidating and doesn’t cost the Earth, then step right this way. It’s since become this writer’s partner’s new go-to kitchen knife of choice.

Key specs – Blade material: German DIN 1.4116 stainless steel; Handle material: DuPont plastic; Size: 20cm

Buy now from Amazon

3. TOG Mini Bunka: Best high-quality general purpose knife

Price: £180 | Buy now from TOG Knives

This brand new Japanese-style 14cm ‘Bunka’ model from Br

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